When Christians talk about the crucifixion, we sometimes talk about it as if it were inevitable. But if it was inevitable, wouldn’t that mean that God condones injustice, or at least is okay using it as a means to an end?
The answer is “no!” We know for certain that God condemns injustice, and especially the specific injustice that Jesus faced: “Whoever acquits the wicked, whoever condemns the just — both are an abomination to the Lord” (Pr 17:15).
While we believe that Jesus did come for our salvation, his execution was not necessary to make that happen. The crucifixion is a choice that Jesus’ contemporaries made, either because they were threatened by his message about God’s kingdom or because they needed to make a politically expedient gesture.
In fact, while it’s true that Jesus “was crucified under Pontius Pilate,” Pilate had some reservations about killing Jesus. In John’s crucifixion narrative, Pilate says three times that he does not find Jesus guilty (cf. Jn 18:38, 19:4, 6). Similarly, in the Gospel of Luke, while Herod mocks Jesus, he also does not convict him (cf. Lk 23:10-11).
There were multiple opportunities for the people with power to take a moral stand and stop this execution, but they chose not to.
We have this same choice today. The Catholic tradition recognizes that the crucifixion happens over and over again in the lives of “the poor, the weak, the oppressed, and those discarded by many forms of injustice.” The earth and its non-human creatures are among those we crucify.
In our reflection on Holy Thursday, we saw that the World Wildlife Fund estimates that hundreds to thousands of species go extinct every year. We also saw a 2005 study that calculated that in the previous 60 years, 60% of the Earth’s lands and waters had been degraded. This is the crucifixion on a truly massive scale!
In the story of this crucifixion, what role are we playing? Are we Simone of Cyrene or Veronica, helping to alleviate nature’s suffering? Or are we the imperial soldiers, participating in stripping nature bare and nailing it to the cross? Or is there another role we can play, the person who takes creation off the cross and dedicates themself to preventing future crucifixions?
Copyright © 2021 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.